Tag Archives: psychological

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

I don’t often read non-fiction, but I do happen to be a fan of Jon Ronson’s writing, and Psychology is something I absolutely love reading about. I studied Psychology when I was at school, and I also conducted a couple of psychopath-based experiments while I was at university, so when I discovered Jon had written a book all about Bob Hare’s Psychopath check-list, it went straight to the top of my pile of books to read. 

‘Suddenly, madness was everywhere, and I was determined to learn about the impact it had on the way society evolves. I’ve always believed society to be a fundamentally rational thing, but what if it isn’t? What if it is built on insanity?’

Jon travels into a world of madness which begins with the mysterious book ‘Being or Nothingness’ seemingly sent to various academics around the globe, which leads him to ‘Tony’. 
Tony resides at Broadmoor (a psychiatric hospital) after committing GBH twelve years earlier. At aged 17, after attacking a homeless man, Tony faked mental illness to get out of a prison sentence by quoting from the films such as ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ ‘Hellraiser’ and even from a biography of Ted Bundy. Twelve years later he is still residing in the DSPD (Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder) unit at Broadmoor, with seemingly no hope of release. How can Tony prove he really is sane? And more importantly, what is the real reason for keeping Tony locked up in the DSPD unit? Jon tells Tony’s story along with many other stories relating to Bob Hare’s psychopath test. 

‘”Do you feel empathy? I suppose empathy could sometimes be considered a weakness.”
“No” said Toto “I don’t feel empathy.” He shook his head like a horse with a fly on its nose. “It’s not a feeling I have. It’s not an emotion I have. Feeling sorry for people?”
“Yes.”
“I don’t feel sorry for people. No.”‘

A thoroughly fascinating read with rigorous research conducted and explained by Ronson; if you like his writing anyway, you won’t be disappointed.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

‘No one measures a life in weeks and days. You measure life in years and by the things that happen to you.’

Jill’s father has just died and she feels lost, no longer herself without her best friend; then her mother informs her she’s going to adopt a baby…

Mandy is 17 and pregnant. She’s run away from home, and the only thing she wants is to make sure her baby doesn’t have life like hers.

‘I don’t want this to be a baby from fear and sadness. I want this to be a baby from cornfields and Ferris wheels and stars.’

I was expecting this to be a cheesy predictable ‘family’ story. Well, it’s fairly predictable, but not cheesy, and definitely deeper and more significant than I had imagined. I can see this being a book that ends up on a school reading list. It touches on some key subjects: death, loss, grief, abuse, adoption and teenage pregnancy – all of which are important topics that teenagers should be exposed to in the literary world. The fact that it’s modern and relatable is always a bonus for reluctant readers.

‘Mandy smiles at me and touches her belly. “Thanks”. Her eyes are ice blue, light and clear, the kind of eyes you see on certain sheepdogs. Her smile makes me uncomfortable.’

I had no idea that I would be so unnerved by the character of Mandy, presumably it was Sara Zarr’s intention to give her this psychopathic air about her, and there are significant facts about her past that – without explicitly stating in the novel – perhaps give us an insight as to why she’s become the sort of person she has. The ending is no surprise, but Zarr’s writing is engaging and her characters (perhaps with the occasional exception of Mandy) are relatable. I would definitely recommend it, especially to read during winter given the lovely book cover. 🙂

Suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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Dolly by Susan Hill

Dolly by Susan Hill

Set in the dank dark landscape of the English fens, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his Aunt Kestrel, whom he has never met. With him is his spoilt and spiteful cousin Leonora, also visiting for the summer. After Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful Indian doll is not fulfilled, the furious rage she unleashes unsettles Edward and haunts him for many years to come. Years later when Edward and Leonora are the only surviving members of the family, he returns to the the fens, and discovers the frightening consequences of Leonora’s actions, which are inescapable…

‘In the distance he heard the sound of paper rustling and the muffled crying of Dolly, buried beneath the earth.’

The problem with reading ghost stories by Susan Hill, is that her fans expect it to be as good (if not better) than The Woman in Black. While I will say this one isn’t quite as frightening, I also don’t think they’re particularly comparable. Dolly is quite a short story, only 153 pages long, but it feels a lot shorter. The majority of the book is leading up to the terrifying consequences of Leonora’s actions, which means that 80% of the story is spent on the edge of your seat waiting…

‘The grasses whisper, the wind moves among the gravestones. And somewhere just about here, by the low wall, another sound, not like the grass but like paper rustling. But there is no paper.’

What I liked the most, were her brilliant descriptions of the English fens, and the old gothic decaying house. Her writing style is such that you could read any of her books and be happy just reading her atmospheric writing, even if the story isn’t perfect. I would however highly recommend Dolly – it is a short but intriguing ghost story, great for reading in front of the fire on a winter’s evening. Just don’t expect it to be the next Woman in Black.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell

The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell

If you liked the light-hearted, funny yet poignant writing style of David Nicholls’ ‘One Day’, then you are sure to like Farrell’s witty yet emotional journey of ‘The Man Who Forgot His Wife’.

One day, Jack Vaughan suffers a psychogenic fugue; all his personal memories have been wiped, apparently due to ‘stress’. As it turns out, Jack is in the middle of divorcing his wife, a wife he has no knowledge of even having! He sets about trying to work out what went so wrong in his marriage, and blindly wondering if he can salvage his old life.

‘Hang on, you haven’t explained anything… Where are we? Who is that beautiful woman?’
‘That, Vaughan, was the house you lived in for twenty years, and that was Madeline. That was the woman you’re about to divorce.’

This was a very funny and entertaining read. Not ground-breaking by any means, but definitely worth reading on your day off. 
It’s one of those interesting concepts everyone likes to ponder on occasion. What if you did forget your wife, your children and your life completely? What if you met the woman you were in the middle of divorcing only to fall in love all over again?

The story is brutally honest, and doesn’t sugarcoat love and marriage by any means, but it’s engrossing, sometimes laugh-out-loud, and definitely a book I would recommend for someone looking for a ‘holiday read’. 

Love From

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Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant

‘One minute the teacher was talking about Civil War.
And the next minute he was gone. 
There.
Gone.’

Suddenly all the adults and children over the age of 15 have disappeared; there one minute, gone the next, just vanished into thin air. Sam, Astrid and Quinn must try to work out how to survive in a world turned into chaos. Cut off completely from the outside world by a giant barrier, they’re trapped, and a new order is rising. Some of the survivors have power, a mutant power…

I LOVED this book. Yes, I needed to use capital letters to express my strong feelings. I’d been putting off reading the Gone series for quite a while, mainly because of all the comparisons to The Hunger Games. I felt the need to take a leisurely break from the world of dystopia (more reviews coming up about what I read in-between).
After reading Gone, I didn’t actually feel it was remotely similar to The Hunger Games – other than the idea of a dystopian future – and frankly, it deserves to stand on its own as a brilliant novel rather than riding on the back of all the HG success.

I really like Michael Grant’s writing style; there is no singular viewpoint, while there are a number of clear ‘main’ characters, there are in fact so many characters, that you become far more emotionally attached to them as a group. 

It’s so fast-paced and action packed that it felt like watching a film or a tv series, and would in fact, be an instant hit if made into one (should it stay loyal to the novels). The twists and turns, the mix of sci-fi with dystopia, well, it just makes for a highly entertaining and gripping story. I can say with great pleasure that I will be going out to buy the following four novels (Hunger, Lies, Plague and Fear), and continue to read them until the end of the series. In a way I’m glad I waited so long to read them; now I can take my time enjoying them while everyone else waits on the edge of their seat for the sixth (and final) book ‘Light’ to be released!

We’re sitting in the dark willing to sell our souls for another peppermint with enough uranium to give a terrorist a wet dream.’

If you like thrilling, gripping novels, or have a taste for the dystopian or exciting sci-fi, you will relish the Gone series. 

Contains a fair amount of violence and cruelty, so more suitable for age 14+

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

“There are certain things you should never have to see in life. A crying tree standing beside your son’s grave was one.
That was one.”

The Crying Tree is the tragic story of 15 year-old ‘Shep’, murdered in his family home in Oregon, and the events following his death. Nineteen years on, the superintendent of the state Penitentiary is preparing to execute Shep’s murderer. However, as his mother tries to come to terms with her grief, she finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of secrets, and begins to wonder how well she really knew Shep, her husband, or herself.

Initially I was put off by the front cover of this book; very reminiscent of a Jodi Picoult novel. Fortunately it goes a lot deeper than that. This is a compelling plot, especially considering the entire story takes place over the period of just one month.

It is a story about forgiveness, and the fallibility of the human condition. It wasn’t quite what I expected, and there was a twist about two-thirds of the way through which surprisingly caught me off guard (unusual for me). I liked the way Naseem dealt so carefully with the emotions of Irene; they felt alarmingly realistic and I found myself compelled to keep reading.
I’m not familiar with the community of either Illinois or Oregon, but I was quite surprised by the opinions raised later in the story, especially for something set as late as 2004. I can only assume that living in such a culturally sensitive environment as London, I am just unused to these sorts of reactions  – perhaps that was or is the norm for that generation in that particular part of America, and I applaud Naseem for attempting to tackle such a controversial subject. Not only is her writing beautiful, but I was pleased to note that the plot lines surrounding the US legal system and capital punishment went into so much detail, shedding light on the flaws and inconsistencies in that form of justice.

I highly recommend reading The Crying Tree; an eye-opening and brilliantly realistic story.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

‘I’m a sliver-thin light, diamond sharp, that can slip through gaps in the world we know. I will come into your dreams and speak soft words when you think of me. There is no happy ever after – but there is an afterwards.
This isn’t our ending.’

After a local school is set alight, Grace races in to try to save her daughter Jenny from the fire. The story begins while they are in critical condition in the hospital. Even though she is unconscious, Grace decides she must find the arsonist in order to protect her children.

I really wanted to love this novel. I adored her first book Sister, and had heard that they were quite similar in style.

The problem is, this style didn’t work for me with this particular story. Rosamund packs a lot of emotion into her writing, and you really do feel for her characters. For me, the problem was that I didn’t find the concept believable. A mother and daughter are unconscious in the hospital, and the entire novel is narrated while they are having out-of-body experiences. This time, instead of the emotional language and stubborn main characters making me relate, I became bored. I can honestly say I only finished this book because I made myself. The emotion felt forced and over the top, and I found myself shudder at the mother’s obsessive nature.

Having said all that, I think Rosamund is a wonderful writer, and if the story had been one that felt realistic to me, I’m sure the language would have had an entirely different effect (as it did when I read Sister). I look forward to the next book she brings out, and hope that I like it as much as I did her first novel.

Love From,

Original Book Girl

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